“Encounter at Farpoint”
Written by D.C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Corey Allen
Season 1, Episode 1
Production episode 40271-721
Original air date: September 28, 1987
Captain’s Log: The newly commissioned U.S.S. Enterprise-D is heading to Deneb IV, beyond which lies “the great unexplored mass of the galaxy.” En route there to investigate Farpoint Station, an impressive base built by the Bandi on that world, they meet Q, an all-powerful being much like those encountered by Kirk and his crew, except considerably more obnoxious. In a lengthy bit of exposition, we see the ship separate the saucer, an effect so awesome and practical that it would only be seen two more times in the show’s run.
With most of the ship’s complement in the saucer, the stardrive section confronts Q, who puts four of the five people on the battle bridge on trial in a late 21st-century “post-atomic horror” court. (Hey, something to look forward to in 70 years…) Q condemns humanity as a savage race, but Picard insists that the charges do not apply to humanity any longer and suggests that Q judge them based on how they are now. Q likes this idea, and so sends the Enterprise off to Farpoint Station to evaluate them on their current mission.
At Farpoint, Commander Riker reports and is told to manually reattach the saucer in order to prove his manhood. They then investigate Farpoint to try to figure out why the station is so amazing. Groppler Zorn, the leader of the Bandi people, is evasive on the subject.
A ship enters the system and fires on the city around the station before kidnapping Zorn. Q returns to be snotty for a little bit before Riker takes a team over to the other ship, where Zorn is being tortured—by the ship, which is alive, and wants its mate back. The Bandi kidnapped one of these living ships and enslaved it to be a station. The Enterprise frees it, and the couple are reunited in a scene that is straight out of cut-rate hentai.
Q decides humanity isn’t savage—for now. And the Enterprise goes off to explore strange new worlds, and all that other stuff….
Thank you, Counselor Obvious: Upon seeing Lieutenant Torres being frozen, Counselor Troi declares: “He’s frozen!”
Can’t We Just Reverse The Polarity? “Something strange on the detector circuits.” We will never hear from the “detector circuits” again, which is probably for the best.
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Both leading men have pasts with women on the ship. Commander Riker and Counselor Troi were an item years ago, and Captain Picard ordered Dr. Crusher’s husband (and Wesley’s father) to his death, yet she requested assignment to his command. Also, a female ensign totally checks out Riker’s ass after she gives him directions to the holodeck.
The Boy!? Upon Wesley Crusher’s first trip to the bridge he shows aptitude for both using the ship’s controls and pissing off the captain.
If I Only Had a Brain… Data hangs out in a forest on the holodeck while trying to whistle “Pop Goes the Weasel.”
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf gets emasculated right off the bat by Picard ordering him to command the saucer section rather than serve on the battle bridge.
Welcome Aboard: John deLancie makes his first of many appearances (on three different Trek series) as the all-powerful, all-snotty Q. In addition, Colm Meaney appears as an unnamed conn officer (the fifth guy on the battle bridge) who would get a name (O’Brien) in the second season, graduating to being a recurring character as the show progressed, becoming a regular on the spinoff Deep Space Nine. And then there’s DeForrest Kelley….
I Believe I Said That: “Well, this is a new ship, but she’s got the right name. Now you remember that, you hear? You treat her like a lady, and she’ll always bring you home.” Admiral Leonard McCoy to Data as they amble slowly down the corridor.
Trivial Matters: Riker and Troi’s backstory is almost exactly the same as that of Decker and Ilia from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, also written by Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry. David Gerrold wrote the novelization of the episode, using several concepts that were part of the original conception but later abandoned (Worf having a more aggressive personality, Riker being called “Bill,” a woman from Picard’s past named Celeste). If you read his novel Voyage of the Star Wolf, you can see some of what he had in mind for the show before he was let go early in the first season. (He later repurposed a first-season script called “Blood and Fire” as a Star Wolf novel...)
Make It So: This two-hour premiere is bogged down a bit by a languid pace, way too much exposition, and a plot that isn’t actually all that interesting. The acting from many of the regulars is stiff. The episode also spends a whole lot of time distancing itself from its predecessor. There are away teams instead of landing parties, on which the captain does not go; a captain who is cerebral and asks his officers for their opinions, and who also surrenders the ship in the very first episode; and a Klingon in a Starfleet uniform.
For all that, there are acknowledgments to the past: when Worf walks through engineering he passes a human male in gold talking with a Vulcan male in blue. Plus, of course, there’s Kelley’s delightful cameo as an elderly admiral being escorted through the ship.
Where this pilot does work, though, is in the non-stiff performances. Patrick Stewart has a tremendous gravitas in the role of Jean-Luc Picard. You never doubt for a moment that he’s in charge, and that he’s twelve steps ahead of everyone else—even the omnipotent guy. Speaking of whom, John deLancie is a revelation, as the screen lights up when he’s on it (and drags to a halt when he isn’t). And Brent Spiner is delightful as the android Data.
Plus, there’s a guy walking around the corridors of the Enterprise in a minidress. Whole episode’s worth it for that.
It set up what was to come, but isn’t a lot of fun to watch, especially when you know the show’s going to do better.
Warp factor rating: 4
Keith R.A. DeCandido has been writing or editing Star Trek fiction since 1999 in novel, short story, eBook, nonfiction, and comic book form. His work has covered all five TV shows, as well as the prose series The Lost Era, New Frontier, Corps of Engineers, Myriad Universes, Mirror Universe, and I.K.S. Gorkon/Klingon Empire. His acclaimed novel A Singular Destiny served as the transition between the best-selling Destiny and Typhon Pact series. Follow him online at his blog or on Facebook or Twitter under the username KRADeC.